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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Parenting versus Overparenting

I was at my son's school for parent orientation. While some of the parents were in meetings, the children played outside. In front of the middle school is a narrow two-way street flanked by sidewalks. Leading up to the entrance is a thirty-foot, two-sided walkway, partially separated by a raised, but low, planting area. Some kids were standing in this yet to be planted, mulch covered area and sitting along its retaining wall. Several steps and a 10x20 foot landing area with railing are just outside the front doors.

Two children stayed on the landing. They appeared to be about eight and eleven years old. While the other fifty kids moved freely from the building to the landing to the steps to the walkway and to the sidewalk, those two children looked on longingly like puppies on a couch in the living room window.

The older child's friends asked her to come down the steps and join them and she said they couldn't. One friend replied, “Dang, your mama don't let y'all do nothing.”

It was kinda funny because I was thinking the same thing. It was sad because what those two children on lockdown felt and what the others with leeway recognized is something some parents don't. Children need room, more than homerooms and bedrooms. It is difficult for them to grow and move beyond what makes parents nervous or uncomfortable.

Learning, for children, is continuous. It is not confined to classrooms. Most of it takes place at home and in the neighborhood. Trying to have peace of mind by ensuring a child's complete safety at all times will restrict learning. Keeping our precious babies on leashes or caged in when we can't watch them might be okay for puppies but not children if we expect healthy development.

Overparenting hurts a child more than it helps. It puts them in danger of not being able to think for themselves. If children spoke as freely to their parents as they do to their friends, they'd probably say, “Back up off me Mama” or “Give me some room to breathe Baba.”

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